Sailors Use Augmented Reality to Train for Combat

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An augmented reality (AR) environment is being tested as a training tool for sailors and marines who must train and remain proficient while at sea. The Tactically Reconfigurable Artificial Combat Enhanced Reality (TRACER) system consists of a virtual-reality (VR) headset, a backpack processor, a simulated weapon designed to deliver realistic recoil, and a software package that creates different simulation scenarios for security personnel to experience. TRACER leverages software developed by Magic Leap Horizons as part of the U.S. Army’s Augmented Reality Dismounted Soldier Training (ARDST) project.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) teamed up with the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, and industry partners Magic Leap Horizons and Haptech Inc. to develop the new AR training environment.

TRACER AR environment for military training, ONR.
Sailors assigned to the Center for Security Forces detachment in Chesapeake, Va., demonstrate the TRACER system. The sailors file into the room, their weapons ready. Their mission: to secure an active-shooter situation and apprehend the holographic perpetrator. Courtesy of John F. Williams.

“All of these technologies combine together to give us extremely accurate weapon and movement tracking capabilities as well as highly immersive simulation visual, auditory and haptic [relating to the sense of touch] feedback,” Patrick Mead, TRACER project lead, said. “Ultimately, TRACER provides sailors with dynamic, engaging, and less predictable training scenarios that would be too costly or time-consuming to create in the real world.” The system is built mostly from commercial, off-the-shelf products.

TRACER was recently tested at the Center for Security Forces (CENSECFOR) in North Carolina. The mission at CENSECFOR is to train sailors in U.S. Navy security force fundamentals, code of conduct, anti-terrorism, and expeditionary warfare training.

“We can integrate this AR virtual training environment into our existing curriculum, and it allows us to be very reconfigurable,” Cmdr. Kim Littel, CENSECFOR director of training innovation, said. “We can go in and we can change the scenarios, or we can change the opposition forces and the threat that they pose.”

According to Littel, the necessary space required to conduct training operations on a ship is limited and the opportunity to conduct training without impeding on regular operations is scarce. TRACER will help mitigate those issues. “In an environment where we’re taking students from the fleet, from their primary jobs, to train them, we need to maximize the limited time we have to make them as proficient as possible,” Littel said. “This technology provides a huge advantage by being quickly adaptable to different scenarios, geographic locations, and opposition forces. Using this technology, we can conduct training almost anywhere, anytime.”

The Office of Naval Research Global (ONRG) TechSolutions-sponsored TRACER package consists of a virtual-reality headset, a backpack, a state-of-the-art simulated weapon, and a software package that creates multiple and adaptable simulation scenarios for security personnel to experience.

Published: July 2019
augmented reality
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that integrates digital information, typically in the form of computer-generated graphics, images, or data, with the real-world environment in real-time. AR enhances the user's perception of the physical world by overlaying or combining digital content onto the user's view of the real world, often through devices like smartphones, tablets, smart glasses, or specialized AR headsets. Key features and principles of augmented reality: Real-time...
virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment or experience that can be interacted with and explored by an individual using electronic devices, such as a headset with a display. VR aims to create a sense of presence, immersing users in a computer-generated world that can be entirely fictional or a replication of the real world. It often involves the use of specialized hardware and software to provide a fully immersive and interactive experience. ...
Research & TechnologyAmericasOffice of Naval ResearchImagingOpticsaugmented realityARvirtual realityVRAR/VR headsetdefensemilitaryvirtual warfaregaming

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